Alain Dewitt's Reviews > All Hands Down: The True Story of the Soviet Attack on the USS Scorpion

All Hands Down by Kenneth Sewell
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May 17, 11

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bookshelves: 2011
Read from May 13 to 17, 2011

** spoiler alert ** I enjoy reading books about submarines, both fiction and non-fiction. This is a fairly recent book that purports to shed new light on the loss of the USS Scorpion in 1968.

The writing is quite good. The authors do a good job of educating the reader about life on a submarine, as well as introducing us to the men who served on board Scorpion. They also interweave several related narratives regarding the loss of the Soviet missile sub, K-129, and Navy traitor, John Walker.


For a long time, conventional wisdom regarding the loss of Scorpion was that she was lost due to a 'hot running' torpedo (a torpedo that fires while still in the tube). This book purports to debunk that theory. The authors' claim is that Scorpion was deliberately sunk by the Soviet Navy in retaliation for the loss of K-129 which they believed was lost due to an undersea collision with another US Navy nuclear submarine, USS Swordfish. The authors contend that the Soviets laid a trap for Scorpion and sunk her via a helicopter-launched torpedo just off the Azores.

Even more sensational is the authors' claim that the US Navy knew that Scorpion had been attacked and sunk by the Soviets and deliberately covered it up.

The problem is that they don't really provide solid evidence of this in the text of the book. If you read the notes associated with the chapter they offer some evidence as to Soviet culpability in the form of an interview with an unnamed Soviet admiral. However, I find this far from conclusive. As to the claim of the Navy cover up, no real solid evidence is offered. Instead the authors rely on deductive reasoning to assert a cover up. Again, this is far from conclusive and the authors should have taken care to let the reader know of the tenuousness of these charges.

This is not to say that the book is a waste of time. It's still an enjoyable and informative read; it just doesn't pack quite the punch the authors had hoped.

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